GUEST POST: Catherine Ryan Howard, author of new novel ‘Distress Signals’ released today, talks about how she stays creative

Today is publication day for Catherine’s new thriller, Distress Signals. I have been reading her blog for nearly a year and found her journey to this day fascinating and inspiring. Catherine has dreamed of being a novelist from a young age and her secret to achieving it?

Hard work.

distressTPR(2)It comes across clearly in Catherine’s blog that she has spent a lot of time writing and a lot of time reading about writing. She is forever dangling her dream in front of her own eyes, reminding herself what it is she wants to do and that the main factor that influences this dream becoming a reality, is her. Yes she needs an agent, yes she needs a publisher. But ultimately, it all rests on her putting in the hard graft, which isn’t always fun and smooth-going.

Any creative endeavour, whether it’s your vocation, your hobby, even your number one passion in life, can be hard to finish. Liz Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) said in a recent podcast, everything is “90% boring”. Just a little teaser as I’m not going to go into that now. But stay tuned as I am going to write a series of posts on how to stay creative. I’ll be giving my two-pence worth but mostly involving some more guest post…ers. In the mean time, enjoy Catherine’s advice and buy her book (read right to the end for information about it).

What Keeps You Creative? CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD

If I find I’m stuck and struggling to get the words on the page, these are some of the tactics that get me going again:

  1. Get away from the desk

I don’t believe that sitting in front of your computer staring at a blank virtual page all day is the best method for re-starting your flow, so I get up and go do something else. This might be something else entirely (cleaning the kitchen, going for a walk, watching some TV) or it might just be taking a notebook and a pen to the couch and jotting down a few ideas about where the story might go next.

  1. Plot surgery

Usually if the words aren’t coming, it’s because I’m having a plot problem and I either don’t know or don’t feel sure about what’s coming next. This is where the graphs, charts, Post-Its and Sharpies come out. It sounds like procrastination, but it’s the productive kind. Recently I was really drawing a blank about the middle bit of Book 2 when I read online somewhere that a good trick to jumpstart things is to put what you thought was the end in the middle, just to see what would happen. I did, and that really sparked some great ideas and got me going again.

  1. Re-read your favourite writing advice

I have a few “How to Write Books” books that really inspire me for various reasons, and if I’m feeling like things aren’t going well, I take one down from the shelf and dip in. I love The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner, How Not To Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman (hilarious and helpful!) and – of course – On Writing by Stephen King. I also re-read Rachel Aaron’s From 2k to 10k all the time, not so much for her advice on writing fast but for her methods for writing in general. I think she makes some great points about writing commercial fiction.

  1. Mix up your schedule

I tend to do college essays and other deadline-d things late at night and into the early hours of the morning, because no one is sending you emails or tweeting at three a.m.! Sundays and holidays are also good for this. So maybe try writing at a different time of the day, or on a different day of the week.

  1. Remind yourself why you’re doing this

Writing is hard work and it’s easy, in the depths of a 100,000-word first draft, to lose sight of why you’re doing this at all. I keep a picture on my desk that reminds me of why: it’s me when I was seven or eight years old, plugging away on a typewriter that Santa bought me while my Barbie camper van sits to the side. I’ve always wanted to be a novelist. It’s my dream job. So I’m going to keep going until the words start to flow again…

Catherine child.jpg



Standalone crime/thriller

Published May 5 by Corvus/Atlantic in Ireland and the UK, June 2 in Australia and New Zealand. Details of North American publication later in 2016 coming soon.

Did she leave, or was she taken?

The day Adam Dunne’s girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a Barcelona business trip, his perfect life begins to fall apart. Days later, the arrival of her passport and a note that reads ‘I’m sorry – S’ sets off real alarm bells. He vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Adam is puzzled when he connects Sarah to a cruise ship called the Celebrate – and to a woman, Estelle, who disappeared from the same ship in eerily similar circumstances almost exactly a year before. To get the answers, Adam must confront some difficult truths about his relationship with Sarah. He must do things of which he never thought himself capable. And he must try to outwit a predator who seems to have found the perfect hunting ground…

Advance praise:

“Pacey, suspenseful and intriguing … [A] top class, page turning read. Catherine Ryan Howard is an astonishing new voice in thriller writing.” — Liz Nugent, author of 2014 IBA Crime Novel of the Year Unravelling Oliver

“An exhilarating debut thriller from a hugely talented author. Distress Signals is fast-paced, twisty and an absolute joy to read.” — Mark Edwards, #1 bestselling author of The Magpies and Follow You Home

Read a preview of the first three chapters here: link:


Catherine Ryan Howard_LRG-ab.jpg

Catherine Ryan Howard was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1982. Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida, and most recently was a social media marketer for a major publisher. She is currently studying for a BA in English at Trinity College Dublin.

Twitter: @cathryanhoward

Instagram: @cathryanhoward


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